Raise a stein – the Breckenridge Oktoberfest is here
In German the direct article “the” is used when speaking of “The Oktoberfest,” Munich’s 16- to 18-day celebration founded in 1810 to honor the Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig’s marriage. Not only is it the world’s largest fair, but it is also the progenitor of many similar autumn-loving, beer-drinking celebrations around the world. If there is any Oktoberfest worthy of the same title here in the High Country, it’s that of Breckenridge. Last year’s festival alone drew upwards of 40,000 people, making it quite possibly the largest in the Rocky Mountain region.
“The” Oktoberfest kicks off tonight with a sold-out multi-course German meal at Salt Creek Steakhouse and lasts throughout the weekend, offering live music from Those Austrian Guys and the Summit Concert Band, lederhosen and dirndl-clad dancers taking the streets whenever the bands go on break, traditional European food and of course, beer. In terms of beer, Breck’s celebration offers the best of both worlds, including both authentic Munich-brewed Paulaner “biers” and Breckenridge Brewery microbrews for “The Oktoberfest” of the Rockies. Traditionally, Oktoberfest biers have a higher alcohol content than other brews, which sometimes results in the phenomenon of “bierleichen” (translating to “beer corpses”) in which drunken patrons, particularly young people unaccustomed to the higher alcohol content, pass out for a while before waking up and heading off on their merry Oktoberfest way. To that end, Paulaner is bringing their Oktoberfest (5.8 percent alcohol), Hefe-Weizen (5.5 percent), Premium Pils (4.9 percent) and Wiesn, their blonde lager that was brewed and sold exclusively on the Munich Oktoberfest fairgrounds until being shipped to Breckenridge for the first time last year. From the Breckenridge Brewery there will be Agave Wheat (4.2 percent), Avalanche Ale (4.4 percent) and Regal Pilsner coming in at a whopping 7.7 percent alcohol. Visitors should choose their beers accordingly and avoid overestimating their ability levels. As to the extent of the “beer corpse” problem at the local Oktoberfest, Sandy Metzger with the Breckenridge Resort Chamber said: “This is my first year as event director, but we do work closely with they town and the police department and I don’t think they’ve had many issues. Hopefully you have a ‘designated friend’ who’s going to take care of you,” she added, chuckling. In addition to beer, Paulaner and Toasted Head will pour a selection of wines.
Commemorative 1/2-litre steins cost $25 ($30 gets you the stein plus two beer tickets) and 1-litre steins are $30 ($35 with two beer tickets). The ceramic steins are imported directly from Munich via slow container ship – and it’s well worth the wait, as they’re quite the collector’s item.”People can go online to http://www.gobreck.com to buy theirs so they don’t miss out on this year’s commemorative stein,” Metzger said. “Last year they sold out.” People who collect the steins are advised to buy now as “online sales have been phenomenal.” This year’s stein design is by Stefan Bast. For those unwilling to shell out the dough for a stein, beers in boring old regular cups are $5, or you can always go the “noagerlzuzla” route and wander the festival drinking the remainders from abandoned cups, although it’s worth noting that the word “noagerlzuzla” has a negative connotation and is used as a cuss word, according to the “Wiesn Dictionary” at the Munich Oktoberfest website, http://www.oktoberfest.de.
For 2011, the Oktoberfest has expanded southward, making “more room for the entire street party (and) allowing us to bring in tables, chairs and umbrellas,” said Rachel Zerowin, spokeswoman for Chamber, for which the event is the biggest annual fundraiser. “We’re setting them up like little beer garden areas,” she added. The footprint now stretches into the 400 block of Main Street, earning a “very good reception from the businesses that we’re coming down their way,” Metzger said. Saturday is the busier of the two-day festival. Merchandise vendors open at 10 a.m. and beer sales begin at 11 a.m. both days, ending at 6 p.m. Saturday and 5 p.m. Sunday. Last call takes place 45 minutes before closing on each day “to avoid (or possibly create) mass chaos,” Metzger joked, and organizers hope festival attendees will “go enjoy all the great restaurants and bars in Breckenridge” afterwards. Things quiet down on Sunday when visitors head home after a long night of partying, making it a great day to come out with the family. Kids’ activities and Team Summit’s annual ski swap will take place at the Riverwalk Center again this year, with the swap starting Friday night. The Breckenridge Recreation Center will also hold its annual 5K trail run on Saturday, after which participants are encouraged to attend Oktoberfest. Organizers remind festival attendees to leave pets at home, to bike to the festival (taking advantage of free bike parking at the Barney Ford Lot) and to remember to bring both bike locks and IDs.”It’s a lot of fun,” Metzger said. “People come up from the Front Range. All the locals come out. It’s a good place to have a beer and see all your old friends.”
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